As a child of the nineties and the youngest of six children, I had the very fortunate opportunity to be raised by several parties. From Sunday to Friday, I was schooled under the direction of my parents, siblings and teachers. I was taught (in no particular order of importance) math, sharing, primary songs, how to do a back-flip on the trampoline, spelling and basketball.
But Saturday . . .
Saturday mornings, I was raised by two things: Cocoa Puffs, and The Mighty Morphin’ Power Rangers.
If you were to ask my 6-year old self which of the two groups had the most influential impact on my perception of reality, you might be surprised to find that I would have attempted to kick your face before the question was even completed. The idea that a seemingly normal person could become this crime-fighting machine, incapable of defeat, consumed me: I wanted to be a Power Ranger (or Batman, whatever came first) when I grew up.
My training, as one would expect from a scrawny 6-year old with nothing but time, was not exactly from The Karate Kid school–except for the getting beat up a lot part; my four older brothers were more than happy to provide that bit of my education. In fact, the older I got, the more I realized that my enemy would not explode in a cloud of dust if I punched him in the chest:
If anything, my punches and kicks against my older teenage brothers were so ineffectual, it gave me pause. Perhaps I should rethink my career choice.
Enter the 13-year old me. With my siblings all moved out, I was practically an only child. Too old for imaginary opponents, not old enough to carry a dangerous weapon (every 13-year old has their reasons for why being 13 is the most awful age to be. Those were mine.)–this was the worst situation for an aspiring crime-fighter.
Then wouldn’t you know it? My mother (i.e. the last person on earth I thought would take interest in martial arts) signed up for a martial arts class in a neighboring city. I say “neighboring”, but we all know it was actually just 30 miles closer to civilization than Darrington. After waiting a month or so to feel it out, she brought me along to test the waters.
She saw it as a wonderful bonding experience, but to be truthful, at the time I saw it as a rekindling of my former aspirations. Not surprisingly, I picked it up faster than Mozart picked up piano, or whatever he did. Not important. I was very good. Soon, I was advancing to higher and higher belts, became an assistant instructor, won sparring tournaments, and broke an inordinate amount of boards. My combative skills were no longer the point of ridicule, but something that was sort of accepted. I could kick the ceiling, kick hats off of friends’ heads, and look like I knew what I was doing for a change ( I had the blue belt to prove it). I was learning self-control, spacial reckoning, respect for superiors, and looking really good doing it.
Then over the course of a couple months, that all seemed to fade. Despite getting so close to the coveted black-belt level, certain events transpired which affected my perception yet again.
I remember the missionaries being present for this first experience. Mom wanted to show them a move she had learned in class. Of course she needed a volunteer. I stood in the appropriate stance, being very familiar with the move in question. However, through some freak failure to communicate, she dropped me like a sack of potatoes. As I writhed on the living room floor wondering if I would ever have children, I began to see that I was not so indestructible.
An accident, I told myself. Nothing more. Not that many weeks after, we found ourselves warming up before class. I had established myself as a very disciplined student, and a tough one to boot. I once elbowed the same piece of wood 50 time on each side before they realized there was a knot running through it that made it unbreakable in such a fashion (I think). Mom wanted to spar me, the sparring champion. I acquiesced, knowing full well that I was in control. She got me in a headlock (illegal) and began pulling my 5’9″ frame down to her 5’3″ level. Laughing, I pretended I was in real trouble, until . . .
Our instructor told her to sit. She sat. With my full weight pressing my esophagus to her forearm, I quickly passed out. Upon waking, I had another realization: I could really get hurt doing this. Naturally, the next step was to try out for high school football (at least they provided pads). A sprained shoulder, finger, ankle, knee, neck and losing season later, I decided that might not be the outlet for me.
So, why am I telling you all this. Is it to convey my bitter feelings toward the unrealistic expectations I had as a child (i.e. don’t follow your dreams, you’ll just have your rear handed to you by you mother)? Quite the contrary. It is not the knocks we receive in life that determine who we will be. Rather, it is what we learn from them, how we react to them that defines us best. My story is fairly lighthearted compared to most; I have never been subject to unwarranted physical or emotional abuse. I may be the last person in line who is worthy to say “suck it up. Get over it.” with any merit of authority.
However . . .
I applaud anyone (not just pregnant women) who strives to feed his or her inner child in spite of the world. Life will repeatedly attempt to wrestle any sense of hope from you. I still battle with deep insecurities in relation to my musical prowess (another, less violent childhood passion of mine). This picture, while representing the quintessential embarrassing, awkward family photo/experience in my life, also represents something else. It is a reminder to me to strive to be the man that 6-year old kid looked up to. Someone who does the right thing, no matter what. Someone who stands up for people who can’t defend themselves. A doer of good.
While I’m not the crime-fighter I hoped I would be (or am I?), I do my best to be a good person. Instead of punching mindless Putties (yes, that was their name. Why do I remember that??) I use my words to punch faces with happiness (disturbing analogy. Noted.)